- Mary Ann Colclough
Mary Ann Colclough. Alone in the world: a tale of New Zealand. Dunedin: Department of English, University of Otago, 2017.
Mary Ann Colclough has recently been identified by her biographer Jenny Coleman as the author of a largely forgotten novel, Alone in the world: a tale of New Zealand, first published in serialised form, then as a full novel in 1866.
Coleman describes Alone in the world as “one of the earliest examples of a melodramatic romance sensation novel published in New Zealand by a female author.”
The novel explores themes which foreshadow some of Colclough’s later polemical writings, including women’s social and legal position, employment opportunities, and motivations for marriage. It emphasises the economic vulnerability and dependency of many of the female characters, for whom only a limited range of occupations were socially acceptable.
Jenny Coleman. Polly Plum: a firm and earnest woman's advocate: Mary Ann Colclough 1836-1885. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2017.
Mary Ann Colclough (1836-1885) was an early New Zealand feminist and social reformer who became a household name to Auckland residents in the early 1870s.
Born in London, Mary Ann Barnes came to New Zealand in 1857, and married Thomas Colclough, a farmer many years her senior, in 1860. A well-qualified and experienced teacher, she supported her children after her husband’s death.
Colclough stimulated public debate about the legal position of married women in New Zealand at a time when they had no independent legal status and no control over property or guardianship of their children.
As ‘Polly Plum’ she was well-known in the local press, energetically voicing her opinions, via journalism and correspondence, on issues relating to women’s position in society. Two decades before the organised women’s movement, she advocated that women were entitled to education, careers, and the vote.
Her early death at 49 meant she missed the key events leading up to the women’s suffrage vote of 1893.